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date: 21 January 2020

(p. vii) Preface

(p. vii) Preface

The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography (NOHEG) brings to the fore a vibrant field of research and teaching at the interface between a host of disciplines, including geography, economics, the management sciences, and urban and regional planning. In commissioning essays we sought to engage leading scholars who have made profound and long-lasting contributions to economic geography along with new voices, new approaches, and new topics of significance to the first half of the twenty-first century. This sounds ambitious. And it is. But we have framed NOHEG as a compendium of essays which reach back to key concepts and ideas and forward to emerging issues and theoretical perspectives that together underwrite the field of economic geography.

Quite obviously, NOHEG builds upon the success of the original Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography (OHEG; 2002). In many respects, that was a very different project than NOHEG. When we were developing the logic and building blocks of OHEG, the field of economic geography was less a shared project across social science disciplines and more a separate thread in the various disciplines that played host to ‘economic geographers’. In this respect, OHEG sought to bring together scholars who were engaged with related issues, even if their theories and analytical approaches were quite different. As such, the compilation was deliberately framed as a dialogue between economists, geographers, and urban and regional planners comparing and contrasting their approaches to common issues. By contrast, NOHEG takes this dialogue as given and seeks to represent the remarkable development of the field within and across disciplines.

Once again, our intention has been to give life to this dialogue without advocating one specific way of being an economic geographer or, for that matter, restricting the focus of the Handbook to a set of issues that are the core of economic geography. Throughout this volume, pluralism reigns supreme. We leave it to the readers to make their own judgements about the salience of issues, the virtues of competing theoretical approaches, and the claims and counterclaims made by contributors about how to conceptualize twenty-first-century globalization. In part, our pluralism reflects the editorial team, of whom three were editors of the original volume. The newly added fourth editor brings his own programme of financial geography and valuable experience to the project. All benefit the NOHEG through their expertise in a variety of ways: our first editor has had a longstanding career in the economics discipline, the second has successfully transitioned between economics and geography and public policy and business schools, and our third editor (before becoming university president) is engaged in issues of innovation at the interface between economics, geography, and political science. Inevitably, our separate and common experience frames the project.

The OHEG began with a manifesto. Simply and directly, the volume opened with a statement regarding the core principles or foundations upon which the volume was based. We term these principles ‘significant points of departure’, emphasizing difference, (p. viii) differentiation, and the heterogeneity of the economic landscape. These principles have stood the test of time. And, as you would expect, they underwrite NOHEG. These principles challenge commonplace expectations of convergence in economic prospects and development across regions, nations, and the globe. At the same time in this volume these principles deserve and receive deeper analysis than in the first volume. So much has changed in the twenty years between conceiving OHEG and realizing NOHEG. And yet, as many readers of the first volume have observed, these principles remain contested and contestable. We are pleased that this is the case and hope that NOHEG carries through on the challenge represented by difference, differentiation, and heterogeneity.

Our Handbook is dedicated to the memory of Susan Christopherson, who died on 14 December 2016. She was a valued colleague and dear friend whose work was motivated by a desire to understand people, places, politics, institutions, and economic processes. Her contribution to this book has all this and much more. On behalf of the community whose work is embodied by this Handbook, we salute her contribution to academic life and her commitment to friendship.

The Editors, December 2016